Research show that patients diagnosed with chronic diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis (PF) have a higher incidence of affective disorders, also known as mood disorders. For example, while the prevalence of depression in the general population is from 4 to 8 percent, in patients with chronic conditions, this percentage is from 20 to 25 percent.

In patients hospitalized for acute care and in patients with cancer, the rates of the prevalence of emotional distress can exceed 30 percent.

Emotional dimension of chronic diseases

Although physicians may find it difficult to diagnose depression in patients with PF and other chronic illnesses, it is essential to detect and treat depression in these conditions.

A mild depression may reduce patients’ motivation to look for medical care and to follow treatment plans. Emotional distress may impair the patients’ ability to cope with pain and can lead to negative effects on personal relationships.

It is often hard to make the distinction between a reaction to the disease and a depressive illness because the physical symptoms of depression may already exist as a result of the disease. Moreover, the patients’ mood can sometimes be affected by the development of the condition itself as well as by the treatment prescribed.

Emotional issues associated with PF

Anxiety and depression are common in people with chronic breathing disorders like pulmonary fibrosis (PF). Fatigue can make pursuing daily activities difficult and the constant longing for air can generate panic attacks that have negative psychological effects.

The disease itself may have a direct impact on the patients’ mood due to decreased oxygenation of the brain.

PF is a progressive disorder which means that patients need to learn how to cope with the initial life-changing effects of the diagnosis and, as the condition worsens, they need to readjust to the emerging physical and psychological barriers.

As the disease progresses, the fear of losing the ability to function and of becoming dependent on others may lead to isolation from family and friends. These fears tend to add to depression and lessen the patients’ motivation to carry on with an appropriate lifestyle. Patients may also end up pushing caregivers away.

Depressed patients tend to have difficulty sleeping and loose the will to eat a balanced diet and to exercise regularly. The lack of exercise has a negative effect on patients because it weakens muscles. Patients then enter a vicious cycle that only fuels more emotional and physical distress.

Seeking support

The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has a long list of support groups that regularly meet to help patients and caregivers cope with the struggles of living with PF. Online communities and social media networks like Facebook or Twitter are also available to initiate contacts between patients and caregivers.

Joining support groups or online communities may help patients identify with people who have similar stories, helping to create a positive impact on emotional well-being. Besides offering emotional support, patients in these groups can also learn more about PF, clear up doubts about the disease and provide information about new treatment plans.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.